Golf: Richardson revels as Faldo stays in touch

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The Independent Online
WITH THE exception of Nick Faldo and Steven Richardson, the Europeans continue to find the idiosyncrasies of the US PGA Championship an insurmountable problem. Bellerive is no Belle Vue. Faldo's 68 in the first round left him sitting pretty, one stroke off the lead and yesterday he was joined by Richardson, who made dramatic progress with a 66, equalling the course record.

Richardson, who was joint fifth in this championship last year, began the day at two over par, dropped a shot at the first hole and then made serious inroads. He had birdies at the third, the fourth, the 10th and the 16th. He reserved his piece de resistance for the 17th. The hole measures 536 yards. Richardson reached the green in two and holed a monstrously long putt, 50 feet or more, for an eagle three. It was only the second eagle made at Bellerive in the tournament and it put Richardson at five under for the day, three under for the championship.

At the 16th, he rolled in a putt from 45 feet. 'I putted well for the first time in a long time,' Richardson, who has not won a tournament this year, said. However, Bellerive's length suits his game. 'It's tough. If you don't hit the fairway you don't have a chance.'

When Faldo got to the locker room after the first round there was a message waiting for him. His wife Gill, who is two months pregnant, had been taken ill. They went to a local hospital and she was released after receiving medication for a migraine. The weather in St Louis was expected to be unreasonably hot and it has been unseasonably cool but it's still a major headache. The first aid crew were in action again yesterday when a 69-year-old man was poleaxed by a wayward drive from Tom Watson.

Watson, the captain of the US Ryder Cup team, sliced his drive and his ball hit the unfortunate spectator flush in the middle of the forehead. There was blood everywhere. A first aid attendant picked up the ball to avoid running over it with a buggy. Under the rules - a ball at rest subsequently moved by an outside agency - Watson was allowed to pick up the ball, clean it and take a free drop. The spectator was taken to hospital.

Nobody since Walter Hagen has won the Open Championship and the US PGA in the same year. Faldo, at three under, was nicely placed to follow in Hagen's spike marks. When he was reunited with his wife, he checked out of his hotel and moved into more salubrious accommodation. Bellerive, at 7,148 yards, is one of the longest par 71 courses in the world. Faldo does not appear to resent its difficulties. 'What you see is what you get,' he said. 'Get on with it. We all have 14 clubs and a ball.' The world No 1 impressively in the second round and he missed several birdie opportunities before moving to four under at the long eighth. He hit a wedge to about five feet and made the putt.

His first serious mistake was to miss the green at the 11th. He found a bunker instead, but made light of it by putting the ball to within a couple of feet and he saved par. He had his second birdie of the day at the 13th, where he holed out from 14 feet for a two, but he dropped his first shot at the last.

A bogey five at the 18th left him with a 70 for 138, two strokes behind Gene Sauers. It was Faldo's second bogey in 31 holes. 'It was just like an English summer's day,' Faldo said. 'Generally everything was pretty good. In the first round I putted very well and today I hit the ball well. If I can get both right . . . ' If Faldo hits the combination, the rest of the field can look out.

For the most part, the Europeans struggled to make the cut, even though it was a generous one. The leading 70 players plus ties survive to the last two rounds and the guillotine fell at five over after the first two rounds.

David Feherty, with rounds of 75 and 75, was packing his bags at eight over and Jose-Maria Olazabal was another at eight over. Feherty had two sixes on his card, the second at the 17th where he went for the green in two and buried it in the woods on the right. Seventh in the US PGA last year, he did not see eye to eye with Bellerive. 'It's a pity the way they set up the course,' he said. 'It's like painting a beard on the Mona Lisa.'

David Gilford also had a six at the penultimate hole and that cost him dear. At seven over for the championship, he missed the cut by two strokes. Ian Woosnam also floundered, taking a quadruple bogey seven at the short third and he finished with an 80. Mark James, 75 in the first round, shot 72 and, with an aggregate of 147, he survived on the cusp.

(Photograph omitted)